How Long Do You Have to Practice Apartheid Before You Become an Apartheid State?

The Daily Beast reports on a speech John Kerry gave to the Trilateral Commission:

The secretary of state said that if Israel doesn’t make peace soon, it could become ‘an apartheid state,’ like the old South Africa. Jewish leaders are fuming over the comparison.

South African apartheid lasted from 1948 to 1994: 46 years in total. The Occupation has lasted 47. What Jeffrey Goldberg has called Israel’s “temporary” or “provisional” apartheid is now one year older than South Africa’s “permanent” apartheid.

During the Iraq War, Thomas Friedman routinely predicted that “within the next six months,” we’d find out whether Iraq was going to be a democracy or a basket case. So recurrent were these predictions, long after the six months had expired, that it led to a fresh coinage: the Friedman Unit. Perhaps it’s time we coined a new phrase: the Goldberg Unit?

Kerry is hardly the first to make such warnings about the Occupation continuing; they have a long lineage. Just after the 1967 War, none other than David Ben-Gurion apparently warned that if the Occupation continued, Israel would become an apartheid state.

Which raises the question: How long do you have to practice apartheid before you become an apartheid state?


  1. Yastreblyansky (@Yastreblyansky) April 27, 2014 at 8:38 pm | #

    Maybe like the President’s views on same-sex marriage it has to evolve first. For reality to catch up with reality.

  2. Jim Brash April 27, 2014 at 8:53 pm | #

    Israel has been an apartheid state from the moment the Zionist decided to exclude Palestinians and legally made it impossible to participate as social, political, & economic equals. It isn’t odd that it had close relations with apartheid South Africa, and remains close to the United States with its long history of Jim Crow and other human rights violations. The US government remains the biggest obstacle to the BDS movement moving forward. At some point, maybe now, the way in which the Zionist regime operates will nolonger serve the long term objectives of American foreign policy nor the interests of the US ruling oligarchy.

    • Stephen Zielinski April 27, 2014 at 11:19 pm | #

      Yep! A state becomes an apartheid state when it practices apartheid. Time is not a variable unless one wants to distinguish between an apartheid state that has consolidated its form of government from one that hasn’t or from one that is collapsing.

      I’d say a regime that has lasted over 60 years qualifies as consolidated.

  3. DZ April 27, 2014 at 9:36 pm | #

    So “Israel,” “Palestine,” and “BDS” are now the biggest tags on this site. Might this indicate that it’s time Corey Robin actually visited Israel?

    • Corey Robin April 27, 2014 at 10:12 pm | #

      Actually Edmund Burke and Hayek are. Perhaps I should time-travel to visit with them first?

      • DZ April 29, 2014 at 4:46 pm | #

        My point was that you’re not an “expert,”–you’re an intellectual tourist. To speak about Israel and Palestine you should at the very least be familiar with the county/countries–and you should be reading Hebrew and Arabic sources.

      • Stephen Zielinski April 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm | #

        Re: DZ

        “My point was that you’re not an ‘expert,’–you’re an intellectual tourist.”

        Actually, Robin is a public intellectual. A public intellectual may or may not be an expert, but she is someone who uses her reasoning powers when discussing matters of public concern.

        Your claim is just a crude appeal to authority argument. It in no way undermines Corey Robin’s discussion of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It fails because Robin never claims to be an expert.

    • Will G-R April 28, 2014 at 9:44 am | #

      Not to validate your entirely fatuous line of reasoning, but just for comparison’s sake, I wonder what proportion of online hasbara trolls have ever set foot in occupied Palestine? (And no, settlements don’t count.)

  4. 21st Century Poet April 27, 2014 at 10:14 pm | #

    Reblogged this on 21st Century Theater.

  5. BillR April 28, 2014 at 11:56 pm | #

    Apartheid meant “separation” in Afrikans. Israeli policy of ethnic separation is called Hafradah. Segregation is a standard translation of Hebrew הפרדה (hafradah). What else can one call a society where a majority agree that presence of black migrants is a “cancer” in the national body and where a majority refuse to live in a building with a Palestinian.

    Even “respectable” Israeli leaders make no bones about the racialist nature of the state they lead:

    If the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then the State of Israel is finished.

    Israel and Apartheid South Africa were the best of friends for 4 decades and Israeli leaders rolled out the red carpet for those who were pariahs in all Western capitals and even had served time for their admiration of Hitler. Their shared fear and loathing of a “predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples” overcame any genteel objections to breaking bread with such men.

  6. Bart April 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm | #

    I’m thinking the next 47 years will give us an indication.

  7. David B April 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm | #
  8. Corey Robin April 29, 2014 at 4:52 pm | #

    DZ: “My point was that you’re not an ‘expert,’–you’re an intellectual tourist. To speak about Israel and Palestine you should at the very least be familiar with the county/countries–and you should be reading Hebrew and Arabic sources.”

    I’m sure you don’t believe that. At a minimum you can’t credibly believe that. By that measure, no one in the US government should ever speak about anything having to do with Israel/Palestine unless they’re fluent in Hebrew and Arabic. And nothing about Russia unless they’re fluent in Russian. And on and on. I couldn’t say a word about any part of the world unless I spoke the language. Nor, I gather, should I be allowed to give any consideration when I vote to US foreign policy in any part of the world unless I spoke the language. High school teachers couldn’t teach about the Chinese Revolution in history classes unless they spoke Chinese and on and on.

    Unless you think Israel and Palestine are so special that they, and they alone, require anyone who wishes to speak about them to be fluent in Hebrew and Arabic. But again that can’t be the case. We’d never be allowed to vote in Congress on foreign appropriations to Israel or Palestine unless all 435 members of Congress were fluent in Hebrew and Arabic.

    • dz April 30, 2014 at 9:09 am | #

      I’ll admit the high school analogy–you come across as every bit as subtle and engaged with the intricacies of the subject as a high school teacher discussing the cultural revolution!
      Seriously, though, you are a scholar, and this is not a passing fancy of yours, it’s an obsession. Were I to blog daily on life in black America, reccomending books on the topic, harshly dismissing others, I would open myself up to a reasonable criticism, namely, “what does an upper middle-class Dane know about this topic? He’s never been to a ghetto, never even been to America. Indeed, he barely speaks English!”

      • Corey Robin April 30, 2014 at 9:22 am | #

        Now you’re just being rude. Please stop.

      • dz April 30, 2014 at 12:19 pm | #

        I apologize for the rudeness. I do think the second past of my analogy stands, however. We need to bare or appeals to authority on something.

      • Will G-R April 30, 2014 at 3:50 pm | #

        At least part of the problem lies in how selectively this principle is being applied. None of the U.S. politicians, lobbyists, religious leaders, etc. who contribute to the hegemony of right-wing Zionism in mainstream American political thought are expected to learn Hebrew or Arabic as a cost of admission to shape policy or otherwise comment extensively on the conflict. For that matter, certainly there are many neoconservative commentators waxing eloquent about the existential conflict between Islam and Western civilization, or whatever, whose knowledge of Arabic (let alone Farsi, Pashto, Malay, etc.) couldn’t stand up to Corey’s knowledge of Hebrew even if (like mine) it barely extends beyond being able to mumble a few mangled phonemes on cue at a seder or in front of a menorah. Why not subject such Islamophobes and their commentary to the same sorts of roadblocks as Corey and his? Surely you’d agree that at least some right-wing commentators on radical Islam could stand to learn a bit more about the history and politics of the Middle East before they open their mouths, but would you go so far as to demand that they jet off to Cairo or start learning to recite the Qur’an?

        Given the hasbara movement’s embrace of the claim that these sorts of double standards applied against Israel and/or Jews are telling indicators of deep-seated prejudice (see the Sharansky definition of anti-Semitism as cited in Phan Nguyen’s recent piece on Mondoweiss), it certainly does seem to raise a disturbing set of questions.

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